Alaska News Nightly: October 1, 2007

Alaska lawmakers look at whether major oil producers coordinated with VECO while the company was bribing legislators last year. Plus, Juneau residents consider returning fluoride to city water in a hotly-debated local election issue. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Katmai float plane crash claims four lives
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Four people died Sunday afternoon in a float plane crash in Katmai National Park, about 50 miles northeast of King Salmon, Alaska. The plane was carrying a fishing guide, two clients and the pilot. John Quinley is spokesman for the National Park Service in Alaska. He says the group was returning to Royal Wolf Lodge when the accident occurred.

APOC probing VECO elections influence
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) held an emergency meeting this afternoon to discuss their investigation of VECO’s potential illegal financial ties to past and present state lawmakers. The probe comes just weeks after former VECO Vice President Rick Smith testified during the Pete Kott trial that the company paid for dozens of polls for candidates favored by the oil industry.

Legislators Gara and French asking ethical questions of major oil companies
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
Two Alaska lawmakers are calling on major oil companies to disclose whether they coordinated with VECO while the company’s executives were bribing state legislators in 2006. Senator Hollis French and Representative Les Gara sent the request in a letter addressed to the Alaska presidents of ConocoPhillips, BP, and ExxonMobil.

Juneau water fluoridation on the ballot
John Ryan, KTOO – Juneau
If money talks, then the most controversial item on Juneau’s October ballot is Proposition 2. It aims to put fluoride back in Juneau’s drinking water. The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) reports that supporters of fluoridation have accumulated $164,000 in contributions, mostly from the Chicago-based American Dental Association (ADA). Fluoride opponents have raised only $5,000, but they have flooded Juneau newspapers with letters to the editor.

Mat-Su District 1 election a choice between candidates and land uses
Ellen Lockyer, APRN – Matanuska-Susitna Borough
Sutton’s Lynne Woods faces a challenge by Butte resident Bruce Walden for the Mat-Su Borough’s District 1 Assembly seat. The race highlights the division in voters’ attitudes regarding burgeoning Valley growth.

Fairbanks setting fires today to control fires tomorrow
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The State Division of Forestry is burning trees and brush in areas bulldozed to create wildfire breaks. Fire Management Officer Robert Schmoll says the areas around Fairbanks were identified in a community protection plan created in conjunction with the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Anchorage’s Glenn Highway expanding to six lanes along Merrill Field

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Late last week in Anchorage a new project to expand the Glenn Highway from four to six lanes took a visible and noisy step forward. Photos by Len Anderson.

Stream repairs in Southeast expanding salmon spawning sites
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Efforts are underway in several parts of Southeast Alaska to repair salmon habitat damaged by logging. Work crews are tearing up roads, replacing culverts and repairing streams to give mature salmon more places to spawn and their fry more places to grow. Photos by Ed Schoenfeld.